You're watching television, your cat on your lap and your dog by your side. Suddenly, the dog's leg starts thumping furiously. He is scratching, and he is miserable because he can't reach the places that itch the most. Your cat digs her claws into her skin, the itch a torture. Just watching, you start to itch, too.
There are as many reasons your animals itch as there are itchy animals. Some of the most common offenders are:
- Ticks and lice
- Parasites, such as scabies
- Food allergies
- Yeast infections, particularly in the ears
- Mites, also particularly in the ears, and very common in cats
- Allergies to the flea bites themselves
- Airborne allergies
- Contact allergies
To counter-act fleas, you must apply a poison. There are several flea killers available from your veterinarian. You apply the contents of the plastic container to the back of the neck, which the animal can't lick. It is very, very toxic, so you must carefully dispose of the container.
I prefer a natural approach, but it is more work and takes longer. Fleas are exceedingly difficult to kills, and you have to kill not only the adult fleas, but the nits as well. Fleas have a hard covering, called chitin, and you have to break that down in order to get rid of the fleas. You can do that with diatomaceous earth, but you have to get it worked into the animal thoroughly and all over. Bathe the animal first, then apply. It can cause your cat or dog to sneeze and choke and cough, so be careful. If your animal will protect a gauze mask, tie it around the nose and mouth. Start with the head and work down. It will take time, because it will kill only the adult fleas, not the larvae. Pay close attention to the belly.
Fleas are dreadfully hard on the animal. The animal may have an allergy to the flea bite itself, so it is doubly uncomfortable. Also, fleas can carry worms eggs, so do not wait until you see them jumping onto the floor.
You should vacuum often when you ridding your animals of fleas and mites. One way to kill the fleas is to put some moth balls in the disposable sweeper bag. That will kill those active fleas you have swept up.
It is easier to prevent ticks than remove them every time your animal comes inside. There are many insect repellents on the market which contain DEET, but DEET is a very, very poisonous substance, so follow your vet's instructions. Again, I prefer a natural approach, such as Parsley Hollow insect repellent. Its active ingredient is ten times more powerful than DEET according to the American Chemical Society and it is non-toxic.
Ear infections can occur because of yeast of mites or bacteria. Clean the ears carefully several times a day. If you see a discharge or pus, see your vet.
We love our animals, and when they whine and beg for a bit of table food, we want to indulge them, but I urge you to resist the temptation. Dog food is made for dogs, and people food is not, so tossing your dog pretzels and popcorn may be the things that, though he loves them, cause him to itch, bloat, become flatulent. If you want to share meat, go ahead, but be sure it is cooked and hasn't got a sauce on it. Cats, too, like various human foods. One of mine loves cantaloupe, but it does not agree with him. All our cats love cheese, and a small bite now and then is ok, but don't fill her bowl with it.
Look over your yard and flower beds. If there is poison ivy anywhere, kill it. Not only can your animal be afflicted, but s/he can carry it into the house and pass it on to you. Urushiol is the very strong and tenacious oil in poison ivy and poison oak. It is very difficult to destroy, so sand can actually live on clothes that have been washed. Seek it out and destroy it.
Cats especially have become sensitive to pollens and other substances that trigger wheezing and coughing. Keep your animal in if he or she is choking and gasping to determine that it isn't an allergy to pollens and other airborne diseases. For cats, you may have to select another kitty litter that is less dusty. If your animal is having difficulty breathing and taking in air, consider it an emergency. Your vet will have medicines that will help her breathe more easily.
By Gay Fifer, owner of Parsley Hollow, Inc.
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